All That Jazz...and Then Some More: The Young Benefactor's Annual Gala, U Street Stars and the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival

Written by Andrea
May 17, 2009
For regular annual Young Benefactors Gala attendees, this year's black-tie reception and silent auction stood out as one of the best in recent memory, a success largely attributable to the event's impeccable planning and execution. Held in the Kogod Courtyard of the Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum's (SAAM), the gala—organized by the Smithsonian Institution's premiere young professional, cultural, and philanthropic group—was, by all accounts, a lovely springtime affair and a feature of exciting Young Benefactors (YB) programming year-round. Young Benefactors did well by their guests this year, coordinating a breathtaking evening in Roaring Twenties style. Lady patrons, in particular, got into the mood, donning elbow-length gloves, feathered head-pieces, and lengthy beads. Guests took part in a wide-ranging silent auction, featuring items from Moojoo Ken couture, Hela Spa, numerous local hotels, restaurants, and shops, as well as sporting event tickets and paraphernalia from the Washington Nationals and Capitals and theater tickets donated by Woolly Mammoth, Wolf Trap, and the Washington National Opera, among other local business entities. Proceeds from the auction benefited the Smithsonian Association and Culture4Kids Fund. Ridgewells mounted a succulent menu worthy of Gatsby. The Roaring Olive, a classic martini speared with a garlic stuffed olive, and the refreshing Daisy Buchanan, a melange of lemonade, vodka, and fresh blueberries, headlined the open bars. The three top-hat and boa-festooned banquets offered guests no shortage of delicacies to sample. Canapes, including foie gras, smoked salmon, and king crabmeat varieties, were a hit, as were the tuna, chicken, and egg-salad finger sandwiches. A lovely spread of cheeses, fruits (dried and fresh), garden dips, crusty breads, and gourmet crackers completed the cold hors d'oeuvres station. Stuffed mushrooms, tomatoes, and deviled eggs greened the evening's indoor picnic. Chilled lavender and flower-petal melon soup was a refreshing transition to the more substantive hot hors d'oeuvres banquet, where guests raved over some of the less traditional gala fare. How often does one indulge in fried ravioli with marina sauce or another fried creation new to this editor, mac & cheese bites? Mini-cheeseburgers and foccacia diamonds layered with turkey, jack cheese, and greens, an antipasto spread, and grilled chicken quesadillas rounded out the gold, black, white, and red motifed hot banquet spread. Later in the evening, the lace-fringe, over-sized polka-dot, and red dancing shoes jittered and jived their way over to the dessert banquet, a station no less reflective of the excesses of the Roaring Twenties than the dinner spreads and certainly more so in calories! Guests indulged in brownie lollipops, chocolate eclairs, lady kisses, coconut cream pies, lemon bars, white chocolate cheesecake, and pecan tarts, to name just a few of the scrumptious treats delighting this swingin' crowd. Other annual YB events worth investigating include the association's Fall Polo Cup and After Party and its Anniversary Bash, which will, this summer, celebrate its 20th birthday. Keep an eye on Greg's List DC for information on this July's event! We will be sure to have details on tickets and an in-depth review on what promises to be a celebration commensurate with the group's two decade long influence on the Washington social and cultural scene, and undoubtedly reflective of the group's excellent access to the very best party venues around town. Looking further ahead on our agendas, the YB Annual Holiday Party is always a holly jolly affair. In addition, the association sponsors volunteer endeavors and regular happy hours at after-five staples including Panache, Lotus Lounge, and Clarendon Grill, with the aim of bringing young supporters of the arts together at least monthly. YB collaboration has extended to our embassy partners too, with overwhelming success and—as is often the case with YB events whatever their locale—a sell-out dual-purpose fundraising and cultural event at the House of Sweden. Should they have missed the YB's Roaring Twenties affair, DC jazz-enthusiasts needn't sing the Blues. In addition to regular jazz performers at a number of renowned venues on U Street, including the Islander, Bohemian Caverns, and Twins Jazz—where Greg's List DC recently featured Vocalist Nancy Scimone and Jazz Guitarist John Sessums—we can look forward to the June Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. The Jazz Festival's opening act will take the stage in the context of the monthly Phillips After Five music and reception series. Last month's Phillips After Five featured Italian jazz and brought bass and drumming duo Project Natale together with a gallery talk on Giorgio Morandi's life and works. "The Grand of Jazz Piano", performed by Allyn Johnson with Jamal Brown and Herman Burney, Jr., will be the prelude concert to the month-long Duke Ellington Jazz Festival named for one of Washington's most famous native musicians. The Young Benefactors' Annual Gala, regular U Street performers, and the upcoming Duke Ellington Jazz Festival leave no doubt that DC's jazz scene is, indeed, all that. Greg's List DC Culture Editor thanks the Young Benefactors for putting the focus on this genre so intrinsically Washington and looks forward to a month-long celebration of the music made famous by our fellow native Washingtonian, Duke Ellington. Under the spell of these tunes—alternatively complex, lively, listless, or soulful but always thought-provoking—we will sing and sway in celebration of the cultural gifts offered by our city.
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